Solar Parking v. accessory structure in Valdosta LDR @ ZBOA 2014-08-05

Both of Dr. Urbonas’ solar parking lot variance cases were tabled by ZBOA for a month so he could figure out a revised way to do it, probably involving connecting the supports to the building so they wouldn’t be accessory structures. Plus some sentiment that Valdosta City Council needed to address this issue that solar parking shouldn’t be classed as accessory structures. This was at the 5 August 2014 Regular Meeting of the Valdosta-Lowndes County Zoning Board of Appeals.

  1. APP-2014-07 — Arunas Urbonas
    (2922 N. Oak Street)
    Variance to LDR Section 218-7 as it pertains to the location and setback distance for accessory structures

    Video. Arunas Urbonas is a doctor with an office at 3564 N Crossing Street. My guess (some sort of addition to his offices) was wrong. He wants to upgrade his solar panel structures, to shade parking lots. TRC recommended denial because of canopy oak trees that would get bigger, probably shading the panels, and were not permitted to be removed. ZBOA found many more issues pro and con than that.

    James D. Cone, Architect, 1806 Plum Street, passed out some pictures of the solar structures. Numerous people said they were in favor of solar, but they didn’t want to set a precedent of letting structures be too close to a street. Mac McCall pointed out they would be no closer to the street than light poles. Nancy Hobby wanted to know if they’d addressed the issue of tree shading. Cone’s answer was that would happen, and it would reduce power generation somewhat, but that was acceptable. Gretchen Quarterman and the Chairman asked if they could move them to a different side of the property. Cone said behind the building would be even shadier, and basically useless.

    Greg Kelly of Hannah Solar spoke for, saying shaded parking solar generation was the goal, showing the doctor’s concern for his patients. Mac McCall wanted to know if the supports were connected to the building, would that count as an accessory building? Answer, nope; that would be a walk way. Gretchen said that was what she had been suggesting, and it could stick out and cover the parking, too.

    Dr. Urbonas leapt up and said they were looking at various areas. Also that most of the sun comes in the morning under the trees. The patients are very sick, getting life-sustaining therapy, and he didn’t want them to have to get back into cars that had been getting hot in the sun all morning.

    Seems to me Valdosta and Lowndes County needs some code changes to deal with solar supports. Anyway, they put it off for a month so the applicant could come up with a revised way to meet the goals of shade and solar generation.

    Video. Gretchen moved for approval and got no second. Dr. Houseal moved for denial; Mac McCall seconded. They voted for, while Orrenstein, Hobby, and Quarterman voted against, so the motion failed. (Laverne Gaskins had already left the meeting at some point.) Scott Orenstein moved to temporarily table until hearing the other case. Dr. Houseal seconded. Unanimous approval.

    ZBOA’s own Summary says:

    TABLED until the September 9th ZBOA meeting (4-1 vote)

    That’s actually incorrect: the vote was unanimous as you can see in the video of the next item.

  2. APP-2014-08 — Arunas Urbonas
    (3564 N. Crossing Circle)
    Variance to LDR Section 218-7 as it pertains to the location and setback distance for accessory structures

    Video. Same solar parking lot idea as the previous item. Staff once again recommended denial because of trees. Scott Orenstein said this wasn’t the first time and Gretchen Quarterman said it wouldn’t be the last time this came up, and he wondered how they could get it reclassified as something other than an accessory structure. City Planner Matt Martin said there were two classifications: accessory building and accessory structure, and this was the latter, as a carport. He added “the solar panels are irrelevant”. Seems to me that last is exactly the problem: they shouldn’t be irrelevant.

    Orenstein pointed out a bus canopy was different than a carport and closer to the roadway. Chairman said Valdosta City Council needed to address that. Gretchen pointed out these types of structures were all over Atlanta. Also that for this item, connecting to the building would be impossible.

    Chairman pointed out ZBOA had the power to grant this request, but he wasn’t sure it was appropriate unless Valdosta City Council changed the LDR to deal with solar parking being different than accessory structures.

    Chairman clarified that if they denied it, the same applicant couldn’t come back with this application for 12 months. Although applicant would have 30 days to persuade ZBOA to rehear the case. If ZBOA voted to table, applicant could revise and ZBOA could hear again at next meeting. That resulted in a spate of diverse discussions among the board.

    Quarterman moved to table for 30 days; Orenstein seconded, Dr. Houseal voted against; the rest for; so the motion passed. They repeated the exercise for the previous item, this time Quarterman moved, Hobby seconded, and the vote was unanimous.

    ZBOA’s own Summary says:

    TABLED until the September 9th ZBOA meeting (4-1 vote)

    Video. They continued talking about these solar items informally after adjournment.